A brand new cru bourgeois classification

The Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc have just announced their new, five-year classification.

The big change is that this is no longer for a single vintage, as it has been since 2010, but for five years and with the three tiers it had in its much earlier incarnation:

  • cru bourgeois
  • cru bourgeois supérieur
  • cru bourgeois exceptionnel.

As the president of the association Olivier Cuvelier explained to me in London last October at the unveiling of those wines selected for cru bourgeois status in the 2017 vintage, the classification now applies to the château and not to the wine, allowing both producers and merchants to think longer term and spend less time applying for the classification every year.

As their press release puts it, this is ‘an approach that rewards properties and reassures consumers’.

One can hardly begin to imagine the paperwork and meetings involved in getting this change officially agreed by government ministers but after nearly 10 years they have succeeded, even if they would really like each classification to be valid for 10 years, and are still working towards this.

The classification is based on a blind tasting of five vintages and overseen by an independent body. For the two higher levels, two extra criteria come into play: ‘the technical management of the vineyard and the marketing and promotion of the property’.

For the classification to be useful to producers and consumers, the status announced today applies to wines from the 2018 vintage through to that of 2022, although the blind tasting is based on any five vintages between 2008 and 2016 as chosen by the producer. For the 2025 assessment, vintages 2017 to 2021 will be tasted.

It is good to see that attention is also paid to environmental considerations. Depending on the cru bourgeois level, the producers are expected to have achieved, or be in the process of obtaining, level 2 of High Environmental Value certification (HVE or Haute Valeur Environnementale in French).

As you can see if you zoom in on the image below, and more easily from this downloadable pdf, 249 châteaux have been ranked:

  • 179 crus bourgeois
  • 56 crus bourgeois supérieurs
  • 14 crus bourgeois exceptionnels.

The 14 winners at the top of the pyramid are: Chx d’Agassac, Arnauld, Belle-Vue, Cambon La Pelouse, Charmail, Malescasse, de Malleret, and du Taillan in the Haut-Médoc; Ch Lestage in Listrac-Médoc; Chx d’Arsac and Paveil de Luze in Margaux; and Chx Le Boscq, Le Crock and Lilian Ladouys in St-Estèphe.

We look forward to tasting many of these wines, mostly the 2018s, when they come to London for the annual tasting later this year.

Cru bourgeois classification 2020
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